Q. Jim and I have been married for 23 years. We have two young teens still at home. Even though we have issues, ours is definitely a good marriage. Jim recently retired and we've been going through an adjustment period. About a month ago, I began doing something "crazy." I began e-mailing a man I met online-someone who shares my beliefs. In terms of spiritual concepts, he can go with me to places that Jim has no interest in. Because he lives in the same city, I met him for coffee, and even though nothing happened, I can't stop thinking about him. Please tell me what to do because I don't want to jeopardize my family. -Susan, Atlanta, GA
A. The most important thing to remember is that your children and your marriage of 23 years are a reality, while the relationship with this man you met online is a fantasy. You are infatuated with a fantasy. Infatuation can bring a sense of euphoria and excitement that can seem magical and meant-to-be. And it's interesting how often these things happen when we are experiencing increased difficulty in our relationship.
Infatuation can be released because it is a form of sustained self-suggestion. We build, polish, and perfect our image of this person, all the while becoming more and more enamored with the fantasy we are creating. And like the fantasy, we ourselves seem to transcend the mundane and become larger than life. Suddenly we feel more attractive, funnier, stronger, happier, and more capable.
If falling in love with a fantasy truly led to lasting happiness, it might ultimately be desirable to sacrifice your marriage and your children's intact home and the comfort that you and Jim have worked hard to obtain. But newness can never replace the ease and support offered by a long-term relationship, and it certainly can't bless your children. Make no mistake, we live in a time in which excitement, betrayal and selfishness reign. This call to abandonment is like the sirens of myth-luring us to throw away all that is meaningful for a few moments of anticipation, usually followed by a lifetime of regret.
Everyone who has given up cigarettes knows how grueling the process can be. Cravings are difficult to manage and there are times when the individual may feel overwhelmed with the desire to smoke. Infatuation can be equally addictive. Our minds are flooded with emotions, and the longing to see the object of our desire can be overwhelming. Therefore, try not to become discouraged if you don't shake this quickly. Commit deeply to the process and try to make a little gain each day. Here are some affirmations to help you release your mind from this infatuation.
1. An affair would demean my role in the world.
2. Through it, I would teach that commitment is a worthless value.
3. An affair would risk the happiness and security of my children, who trust me.
4. An affair would remove me from the path that Jim and I had meant to walk.
5. I am the one person in the world with whom Jim has chosen to remain. This trust must not be betrayed.
6. An affair is an act of extreme insensitivity that would diminish me spiritually.
7. Sharing mere concepts and words with someone does not make me more spiritual.
8. An affair would raise my body to a position of control that it is incapable of assuming.
9. Until I question the value of betrayal, I will not feel a guiding presence in my life.
As you think along these lines, help yourself heal by stopping all communication with this man. Add to this an increased effort to be as kind as you can to Jim and your children. Notice that these efforts to choose commitment over betrayal feel good. You are not sacrificing pleasure and happiness--you are choosing a different kind of pleasure and happiness, one that is lasting and more deeply satisfying.